After spending a week in Queenstown and the weekend discovering the beauty of Milford Sound and the surrounding fjordland area, we decided to spend the week about an hour north of Queenstown in Wanaka. First: We mispronounced the town name the entire time we were there. From the way it’s spelled, we thought the name was similar to Fozzie the Bear’s punchline: wakka wakka. Wanaka, Wanaka. While we thought we were hilarious (maybe too much time spent in the car), it’s actually pronounced like whan- ah- kah. Good to know. Now you can fit in like locals.
Wanaka is a beautiful lake town. Being close to Queenstown, its tourism is increasing, but overall it’s a much more laid back town. Willow trees line the sandy shores next to the main street.
There are even duck crossing signs. The downtown area has some restaurants, bars, pubs, and cafes including Federal Diner that had some tasty sandwiches. How can you not like a place that has a sandwich entitled Totes Ma’gotes?!
There are some gems in this town: Paradiso Cinema where you can relax on a couch and eat some food while watching a movie and Puzzling World – Wanaka’s Wonderful World of Weirdness. The town holds a little something for everyone.
Our time in Wanaka went by fast – the weather wasn’t great so we used the opportunity to get caught up on some work, but we did venture out on a hike and walked along the shore line and explored some places downtown. We saw the full moon rise over the mountains surrounding the lake from the balcony of our apartment, hiked to a high point overlooking the town, ventured to some shops, and listened to the cows in the backyard.
If you want a more upbeat time, Queenstown is definitely the place, but there’s still a small town feel to this neighboring town that makes it feel like home.